“Thank you for this beautiful life.” Those were my last thoughts before a sudden, unexpected, and violent death. I couldn't say them aloud; my body no longer worked, and my senses were rapidly fading as the world's light and sounds swirled into a dark tunnel.
But it all stopped the moment I thought those words. My head lurched forward to hit the windshield as the small pickup finally ceased its swirling and flipping, settling at the bottom of a steep embankment off the freeway. Miraculously, I was alive. The branch that had impaled the passenger side door had narrowly missed my side. My head moving forward had prevented my skull from being crushed by the collapsing roof.
How many times did I hear the word "miracle" that day? How many times did I hear that if I hadn’t ended up in that exact spot – with the truck's tail stuck against one tree and the front end slammed into another, perched between them – I would have been dead?
Don’t believe me? Read about it in the Robesonian newspaper, front page, February 15, 1998. The reporter interviewing me beside the road initially thought I was a witness. His incredulity was palpable when he realized I was the victim, marvelling at my calmness despite having narrowly escaped being crushed, beheaded, impaled, and burned alive. (The fire wasn’t as bad as it sounds.) I acknowledged the truth of his observations but preferred to focus on the joy of being alive, and the immediate tasks ahead, like getting home.
Before heading home, I was greeted by a slew of law enforcement officers – I counted eleven cars in total. They weren’t there to hassle me; they had come because they had heard of the accident, wanting to shake my hand, commend my driving, and express gratitude that things hadn’t been worse. They had spoken with witnesses.
Witnesses recounted how a van, being tailgated, had suddenly cut in front of me on I95 and hit the brakes. Neither the van nor its tailgater stopped as I spun and flipped out of control on the Interstate. My chilled-out ride home on a rainy Valentine’s Day had abruptly shifted gears.
I realized instantly that surviving the crash was improbable. I didn’t have time to even think of my family. With my hands still on the wheel, I surrendered control, saying in my head, “You got this, not me.”
Something profound took over then. I watched as my hands and feet moved of their own accord, like I was a puppet. I let go of everything – my narrative, my life – with my final thought being those words: “Thank you for this beautiful life.”
This Thanksgiving Day, some twenty-five years later, I reflect with gratitude. Much has been given to me, and I hope to give back for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Allow me to share what my Art Critic DALL-E describes as a “comprehensive and insightful description of an 'Art Ecologist.'” This concept represents a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to engaging with art, highlighting its interconnectedness with nature, culture, society, and the environment. It profoundly redefines the traditional role of an art historian into one that actively involves stewardship and advocacy for sustainable practices in the art world.
The term 'Art Ecologist' came to me after meeting Sarah Jorgenson outside the National Gallery of Art. The titles of 'art historian' and 'artist' seemed inadequate to describe what someone like her does. I define an Art Ecologist as someone who studies the interdependent relationships between the creation, presentation, and historical context of art. They view art as a vast ecosystem encompassing artists, communities, materials, cultures, and the environments where art is created and displayed. The Ecology of Art holds that art is not merely isolated creations but part of a complex system that evolves, learns, and adapts while interacting with economic, social, and environmental factors.
The Art Ecologist examines how art is made, the materials used, and its impact on culture and the physical environment.
They are concerned with how art is displayed and experienced, encompassing exhibition designs, gallery and museum architecture, and now, online digital presentations.
They build on traditional art history and theory, helping others understand artwork within its context, enhancing appreciation.
They study how art functions and manifests in different cultures, examining how people create art and how art shapes identity.
They also consider the art market, patrons, and socioeconomic factors, such as the environmental impact of creating art.
Like a tour guide in a gallery or museum, the Art Ecologist aims to educate, wanting others to appreciate art and all that goes into it.
As such, the Art Ecologist is a guardian of culture and heritage.
Therefore, let it be proclaimed that an Art Ecologist is more than a historian. They fuse together art theory, cultural studies, environmental science, history for the benefit of us all. Please think about it.
Meanwhile, how can I resist a selfie?